Bed bugs are ancient insects and they’ve lived off warm blooded hosts since time began. Research shows that prehistoric bed bugs inhabited caves in the Middle East (the cradle of life), most likely feeding on bat blood until humans began to live in caves as well. Then the bat blood eating species developed a taste for human blood and our futures were sealed. Even today, bed bugs are perfectly capable of surviving off the blood of any warm-blooded animal, with their preference for humans simply being a result of our sleeping habits and choice of mattresses providing a safe and warm habitat.
IN THE BEGINNING:
The history of the bed bug, Cimex lecturlarius, can be traced by their name. In ancient Rome, they were called Cimex, meaning ‘bug’, the species designation lecturlarius, referring to a couch or bed. Could bed bugs have been the cause of the fall of Rome? Did Cesar set his bed on fire to rid it of bed bugs then stand by playing his fiddle while it got out of hand and the whole of Rome caught fire? Well it’s something to think about. Right?
Staying on track with history. Bed bugs were first mentioned on ancient Egyptian scrolls documenting how much of a nuisance they were to people. These scrolls date back to 3500 B.C. which is around the same time that the oldest bed bug fossils were discovered in archeological sites.
In 400 BC, Ancient Greece mentioned the bugs and they were mentioned again by Aristotle. According to Pliny’s Natural History, that was first published in Rome around 77 AD, medicinal uses for these bloodsucking insects included the treatment of ear infections and snake bites. Belief in their medicinal properties continued well into the 17th century. That’s when French naturalist Jean Etienne Guettard recommended they be used to treat hysteria. By 100 A.D., they were a well-known nuisance in Italy, by 600 A.D. in China, by the 1200s in Germany and the 1400s in France. England’s first encounters were in the year 1583 but until 1670 the bugs were rather scarce in England. These bugs did not recognize class distinction. They made themselves comfortable in the castles of the wealthiest and the crude huts of the poorest.
Bed bugs became stowaways then residents on our earliest ships – spreading around the world at the same speed as humanity, eventually infesting all of Europe, Asia, and then America. The early European colonists brought the bugs with them to the Americas in the 1700‘s.
In the earlier part of the 18th century, colonial writings document severe problems with them in Canada and the English colonies. In the 1800s, they were abundant in North America. As a side note here, there are no accounts of American Indians being plagued with these vermin.
As a deterrent, early civilizations made beds from sassafras wood (presumed to be repellent), and later-on, attempts to eradicate these bugs included dousing cracks and crevices in sleeping areas, with boiling water, arsenic, and sulfur. Some of the most extreme advice for killing bed bugs was published in The Compleat Vermin Killer (1777), instructing readers to fill the cracks of the bed with gunpowder and set it on fire.
Effective bed bug control methods were finally found in the early 20th century with the development of DDT and other pesticides. DDT was so effective that by the 1950s complaints of bed bugs, in developed countries, were practically non-existent, with reports of US scientists having trouble finding specimens for research.
Pest control professionals and entomologists, today, have several plausible theories as to why bed bug populations have recently skyrocketed in the developed world.
They believe that a combination of cheap travel, ineffective pesticides (DDT and other pesticides, have been banned for decades,) and a lack of awareness has jump started their resurgence.
Here are some links that will tell you more about mans’ relationship with “BED BUGS”.